Samuel R. Delany, Dark Reflections. Carroll & Graf, 2007. 295 pages. $15.95
Delany’s Dark Reflections is now out and available. Delany’s twenty-fifth novel offers a literary narrative about the black gay poet Arnold Hawley, written in a deceptively simple, elegant style that evokes a profoundly lonely soul’s powerful emotional experiences over a lifetime—embedded, of course, in a subtle and insightful depiction of his social and economic reality, just as one would expect from Delany. It’s a surprisingly fast, smooth read; I gobbled it down in two days, knowing as I did that I’d be returning to it soon. Though it ended just as it should, I wanted it to go on and on because I so loved inhabiting its language and ideas and texture.
Besides the novel’s texture, what I liked best was the sense it gave me of Arnold Hawley: he became so real to me that I feel as though I know who he was and what it would be like to be in a room with him. I loved the effect the novel creates by working backwards in Arnold Hawley’s life, by which every moment of the life acquires a complex historicity. Here Delany captures not only the difference age makes to one’s consciousness and understanding of the world, but also the difference in tone and style of the three historical settings he depicts; this novel’s 1972 matches my memory of what 1972 felt like more closely than do many of the novels actually written in 1972. (The section set in the mid-1970s, “Vashti in the Dark” has some of the feel of Dhalgren though it is definitely not Dhalgren. But then Dhalgren, for me, is the quintessential novel of the mid-1970s.) I especially loved the novel’s thematic use of certain details that continually resurface to take on different meanings at different times, as well as the poignancy of the role confusion played Arnold Hawley’s his sexual loneliness.
Dark Reflection gets my highest recommendation.